Top military council to gather amid internal, external woes

Top military council to gather amid internal, external woes

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Top military council to gather amid internal, external woes

Chief of General Staff Gen. Özel is seen in one of the YAŞ meetings in this file photo.

Turkey’s top military board will convene today for a crucial summit to discuss the state of the Air Force following recent mishaps and the possible promotions of senior military officers amid ongoing tension on the southern border with Syria

Two critical points to be addressed at this year’s Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting are whether Air Forces Commander Gen. Mehmet Erten will be able to keep his position after a botched air raid last year in Uludere and the June downing of a Turkish jet by Syria, and whether the 68 active-duty officers currently held under arrest will be retired or promoted to a higher rank.

One surprise could be the retirement of Erten, who is seen as responsible for the Uludere tragedy, in which 34 civilians were killed when they were mistaken for militants and bombed in an aerial attack. The downing of the Turkish jet by Syria has also raised questions regarding the general’s ability to lead the Air Force. Erten was appointed commander last year after the snap resignation of the military’s top leaders in protest of the arrests of senior military officers as part of the Ergenekon and “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup-plot cases.

Two figures that should be in attendance at the YAŞ meeting, Gen. Bilgin Balanlı and Gen. Nusret Taşdeler, are behind bars on charges that they are part of Ergenekon, an alleged criminal gang that aimed to topple the government in 2003 and 2004. 

The meeting will end on Aug. 4 after the decisions made by YAŞ are approved by President Abdullah Gül. 

As the mandates of Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and of his force commanders do not expire this year, there will be no change in the structure of the military’s upper echelon. The real difficulties are expected to arise in the cases of the 68 arrested officers, who include two generals, 14 lieutenant-generals, 23 major-generals and rear-admirals, as well as 29 brigadier-generals and admirals. As they have not been retired from the army, and cannot be promoted due to the ongoing cases against them, the army has not been able to appoint new officers to replace them. YAŞ will be forced to make final decisions regarding 40 of them, as further delay is seen as untenable. 

One option may be to force the jailed generals to retire from the army in a move to create new slots for lower-ranking military officers. The jailed officers have refused to retire from the army, and some of them have gone to court demanding their expected promotions. 

YAŞ will convene under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and with the participation of Özel, Erten, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Land Forces Commander Gen. Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu, Naval Forces Commander Adm. Murat Bilgel, Gendarmerie Forces Commander Gen. Bekir Kalyoncu, Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, 1st Army Commander Gen. Yalçın Ataman, 2nd Army Commander Gen. Servet Yörük, 3rd Army Commander Ahmet Turmuş, Aegean Army Commander Gen. Abdullah Atay and Fleet Commander Adm. Nusret Güner.